Words from a Jesus Freak

We asked our cast and crew to contribute posts on the subject of marriage equality and how they related. This is one of them.

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Hi, I’m a Christian. I love Jesus, pray, take communion, lift up a joyful noise to the Lord in worship and abstain from drugs and premarital sex. I’m an Actor. I curse on stage and wear revealing costumes and I do kissing scenes with men who aren’t my fiancé.

I also believe in Marriage Equality.

Growing up, I was a Christian that I openly admit, am thoroughly embarrassed about now. I wore the Jesus t-shirts (some gems include “Jesus is my boyfriend!” “I’m not afraid to tell the world that I love Jesus.” “I sing for a reason, I sing for Jesus” and last but not least, “Abortion is homicide.”) I listened to strictly Christian music (I’m lookin’ at you, Rebecca St. James) and while others saved up for Warped Tour, I was saving up for CreationFest at the Gorge. I had the Jesus license plate frame that says “Got Jesus?” (Which ironically is still there-those suckers are difficult to get off!) I cringe when I think about my former self. I still love Jesus, but I understand Him a whole lot better now. My best friend from HS told me recently, “I just really have a heart for homosexuals.” My immediate reaction was “People. You mean PEOPLE, right? You have a heart for people.” It was in that moment that I realized we were different. We did everything in the world together, prayed and wept and laughed together. But it wasn’t until that particular moment that I realized: we were different Christians. I don’t think the goal is to get to Heaven, and have Jesus say to you, “You judged all the people I wanted you to hate, good job.” I hope He’ll say, “You loved all the people I wanted you to love, good job.”

I may cringe at the Christian I used to be, but Jesus Christ is still my Lord and Savior, so I often feel like a minority in the theater community. No I don’t live with my fiancé, yes that’s a purity ring on my finger, no I don’t want to smoke weed in the green room and lastly, I can’t rehearse on Easter Sunday. I have been excluded from cast parties, heard whispered insults, the epic backstage discussions as to how all religious people are prudes and bigots and hypocrites and liars—all in front of the one Christian in the room. Don’t they realize that there are different Christians?

I wanted to be a part of this piece because I want our community to realize that not all Christians are the enemy. There are some Christians, like myself, who are different. I’m not praying for you-I’m rooting for you.

How many poems can I write about marriage?

As a poet contributing to Lawfully Wedded, I admit I was daunted by the timeline. I’ve been known to spend more than 6 months refining and editing a single poem until it’s just right. To imagine producing 5 to 8 separate poems about marriage in under 8 weeks had me a little freaked out.

But the topic is so rich and so critical that I couldn’t say no. My process as a poet is to recognize my own emotional investment in a topic and to write through that reaction so that the result is personally important, which is usually pretty easy. But it’s also got to be important to an audience, which is not at all easy. Basically, it’s not enough that I care about what I write. The person hearing me also has to care or it doesn’t work. But this is how storytelling in any form works, right?

So the easy part was having an emotional reaction to marriage equality. For me, this is straightforward: I am gay + I am denied marriage rights = passionate reaction. This is a perfect equation! The problem for Lawfully Wedded was simply that I wasn’t sure how many ways I knew to creatively say that denying me (and other people like me) rights just sucks.

The key became rebounding off the other writers and seeing the stories they were telling. I always have to write from my own feelings and convictions, but I found that writing through (my vision of) someone else’s voice gave me a great deal more to say. In “Grandmother”, in addition to the idea that Danny provided, I literally thought about my own grandmother and how I see her adjust to the changing social climate she’s lived in. When I imagined my grandmother’s motivation for opposing gay marriage, the piece became easy to write.

“Marry Me”, in comparison, is written through my own voice but I’m writing a fantasy rather than reality. In removing the trappings of rights and benefits, I just thought about the reasons I would want to be married…me, personally. I wondered what the reasons could be for me to merge my life with someone else’s. The answer to that question became “Marry Me” and is the piece in Lawfully Wedded of which I’m most proud.

So it turned out that I had a lot to say about marriage. Some things came through different imagined voices, some came through my own voice. I chose to ignore the politics of marriage equality and found that what really moved me were the stories of people, so that’s what shows up in my contributions.

My 2 Cents

In a board meeting over the winter, Danny brought up the work that he had been doing in school, research on gay relationships and most interestingly interviews he conducted with people on both sides of the argument. Immediately the idea came about to create some type of play that would showcase the stories, and he had my full support.

Arouet was started with the purpose of presenting works that speak of civil rights. Our company name comes from Voltaire’s last name after all, well known for his works on civil rights and freedom of and from religion.

Marriage equality does not deny anyone’s rights. It allows you to keep your beliefs, have your intimate relationship the way you want it, and deal with your god(s) however you see fit. On the other hand, the current laws openly discriminate against me. They tell me I cannot, if I chose, get married and have all the civil benefits afforded to me by the government, based mostly on religious teachings.

The irony is that I don’t actually believe in marriage, for anyone. I do believe, however, that your relationship status should be your choice, and not someone else’s. To paraphrase Voltaire: “I may not agree with your decision to get married, but I will defend to the death your right to do it.”

The process of creating Lawfully Wedded has been exhilarating. A creative process like none I’ve been a part of before, collaborating with writers, actors, and fellow directors in a very limited time frame has taken us to new heights. I have grown tremendously as an artist, producer, and most important, as a person.

During the next few weeks you will see here the experience of others on our team. Stay tuned!